The Sun Belt employs the double stepladder format which gives the top two seeds a bye to semifinals. The favorite here is Georgia State, who is led by their junior wing, R.J. Hunter. Georgia State was preseason #66 and there was some anticipation that the Panthers could have a special season with Hunter’s leadership. They currently sit at #71 and the won the Sun Belt regular season title, so it’s not like the season was a disappointment in any sense. But they haven’t put together a profile that makes you feel good about getting a win or two in the NCAA tournament.

Georgia State never found a suitable replacement for what Manny Atkins gave them last year, especially in terms of perimeter shooting. The team went from 44th in the country in 3-point shooting last season to 242nd this season. They’ve also take a lot fewer 3’s, dropping from 119th to 317th in 3PA%. Atkins made 43% of his 164 attempts last season, but some of the ineffectiveness is also due to Hunter’s struggles from downtown. He made 40% of his 3’s last season, but has seen that figure slip to 30% this season.

Nonetheless, Hunter is the Sun Belt’s kPOY and he was still the baddest man in the league. He fills up the defensive box score stats like few people in the country and he gets to the free throw line a bunch as well, helping to offset his woes from long-range. Given how many 3’s he takes (224 this season) his ability to make them may be closer to last season’s numbers than this season’s. So perhaps there’s a spurt left in Georgia State somewhere. Hunter is a junior, but he is decidedly not going pro in something other than sports, so this may be his last chance at playing in an NCAA tournament. The Panthers’ have slightly better than a 50/50 shot of making that happen.

Sun Belt R.J. Hunter, Georgia State (kPOY); Jelani Hewitt, Georgia Southern; Ryan Harrow, Georgia State; Shawn Long, Louisiana-Lafayette; Tylor Ongwae, Louisiana-Monroe.

March 12-14 at New Orleans.

                   Qtrs Semis Final Champ
1 Georgia St.       100   100  73.1  54.0
2 Ga. Southern      100   100  63.3  22.5
4 La. Lafayette     100  65.5  20.2  11.3
3 La. Monroe        100  62.5  25.3   7.0
5 UT Arlington     61.0  23.4   5.1   2.3
7 Ark. Little Rock 67.1  28.7   9.6   2.2
8 Texas St.        39.0  11.1   1.7   0.6
6 South Alabama    32.9   8.8   1.8   0.2